The Rowan Rifle Guards
A History of Company K, 4th North Carolina State Troops 1857-1865
by Philip Hatfield, PhD
The Rowan Rifle Guards formed in 1857 as a Volunteer rifle company in Salisbury, North Carolina, in an era when zealous young men viewed membership as more of a social stepping stone than military service. When the Civil War erupted in 1861 the naive volunteers hastily stepped forward to help garrison the North Carolina coast against an expected Federal invasion. Soon re-designated as Company K, 4th North Carolina State Troops, the Rowan Rifles served in every bloody engagement waged by the Army of Northern Virginia. As in all wars, the harsh realities of active campaigns quickly destroyed any misconceptions of finding glory in war, and the excited volunteers soon became battle hardened veterans.
This work offers candid, personal accounts written by soldiers who participated in the epic struggle that tested not only their devotion to principle, but also to each other. In this way, the reader sees the war from a common soldier’s perspective, rather than relying on secondary narratives focused on dry statistics and strategies alone to tell the story. Ultimately, a shattered Company K surrendered sixteen survivors at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, as a testament to the terrible price paid for their devotion.
“…a welcome addition to the growing body of Civil War literature…Hatfield’s outstanding scholarly research contains rare and previously unpublished soldier’s diaries and letters. His extensive analysis of these sources, together with quartermaster and ordnance records, newspaper accounts, and early historical publications, creates a wealth of detailed genealogical information…Most importantly though, his research effectively debunks several myths concerning the “Johnny Reb” image that has plagued history books and culture for decades…particularly regarding the education, character, beliefs, and social backgrounds of the soldiers…this work reflects an immense amount of flawless research and study, providing researchers, genealogists, and history buffs the opportunity to better understand the reality of the Civil War on a very personal level…Hatfield has created a keystone for what good historiographical research should be and in the process has offered readers a better insight into a part of history that continues to define the United States today.”
– North Carolina Historical Review, October 2013
About the Author
Philip Hatfield, Ph.D., is a member of the Company of Military Historians, and holds a doctorate in psychology from Fielding University; a master’s degree in psychology from Marshall University; and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and history from the University of Charleston. Dr. Hatfield is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and is the author of five books and numerous scholarly articles related to the Civil War. He is a native of Hurricane, West Virginia.